19 January 2012
enough for me to convey how I feel about a mediocre sandwich. Therefore, it is somewhat of a shock tome that I can sum up tonight’s game in one word…
This game was DELICIOUS… and I drank it up. Even during the second quarter, in which the official’s hada wager about who could call the most touch fouls. This has game had all the passion and excitement ofa neck and neck playoff game, and yet… it was never really close. Observe…
This graph (courtesy of pmgameflows.com, the coolest people alive) tells a tale of total domination.After a very quick 11-0 run near the start of the game, it was all jazz all the time. Basketball is a game of runs and— according to the folks at popcorn machine—the clippers had three of them. Two 8-2 runsand one 6-0 run. Those, by the way, are not very impressive. Even if you throw out the entire fourth quarter, which was all garbage time, the trend of the graph is all in one direction. Every run of the Clippers was countered by a bigger run by the Jazz. Like a sine wav multiplied by –x (geeky!), every shift toward the Clippers was followed by a bigger shift towards the Jazz. I got the feeling that if they kept playing, the lead would just keep growing indefinitely, forever and ever and ever…
The lowest +/- on the Jazz was Gordon Hayward, who had a 0. The highest +/- on the Clippers was Chauncy Billups with a -4. You read that correctly. No player on the Jazz had a negative +/-, and no player on the Clippers had a positive one. We punched them in the mouth so hard and so fast that they literally threw in the towel with a few minutes left in the third quarter, something I had never even heard of happening. Total domination.
I can’t really tell you why it was so exciting, despite being as competitive as an early season Ute game(note: I’m a Ute fan, I can say that!), but it was. My voice is gone, my throat is sore, and two hours laterI’m still thinking about it. I stayed all the way until the final buzzer, which was constantly delayed at the end by a malfunctioning shot clock. I’d like to tell you that I am super fan and stay glued to every game no matter what happens, but that would be a lie. I completely lost interest in last Monday’s win over the Cavaliers, and that actually classified as a game at one point. Something about this game was just awesome, giant scoops of sweet delicious awesomeness. We just Lob Citied all over Lob Cities face.
Live in the moment please.
I got to be honest; I am getting tired of the negativity. There is a very real difference between being realistic and trying to suck the life force out of every living soul. The Jazz—OUR Jazz—are playing incredible basketball right now. I don’t care that so many wins have been against bad teams. I don’t care that we have gotten lucky and played against a lot of teams with their stars out. I don’t care that
we have had a lot more games at home than on the road. I don’t care that apparently during the month of February, a giant hole is going to open up beneath the Energy Solutions Arena and Hell’s minions are going to come out and eat our children. I DON’T CARE. Our little time is growing up before our eyes,much faster than any of us ever dreamed. They are playing well, they are playing together, our bench is deep and our starters even showing vast improvement. Right now is a fun time to be a Jazz fan. I am more excited about every upcoming game than I have been in years. Paul Millsap has been replaced by some kind of basketball playing robot. We have youth, cap space, assets, and nowhere to go but up. Ifall you can do after a win like this is think about all the things that are wrong with the team, you should probably find something other than sports to occupy your time, like planning for your own funeral. Afterall, just because you are alive right now and walking around and stuff, one day you are going to die a slow and painful death, probably alone, unable to pee without help from a machine. You should probably focus more on that. I’m just being realistic.
This is not last year’s run
We cannot get out to a great start to the season without someone reminding us how we started out well last season and it all went crashing down. However, everything about this team and this run is so different. Last year’s early season run was a blast, don’t get me wrong. We were the comeback kids, and no situation was too dire. Deron Williams was playing every bit the NBA super-star, putting this team on his back, overcoming the deficiencies of his team mates, taking and making big shots in the clutch. Paul Millsap went down to Miami and turned all of their water into wine. It was awesome, it was exciting,and all the nay-sayers said it was unsustainable, and they right of course (and they probably missed outon another great and exciting period of Jazz basketball). We couldn’t defend the three point line (or really anything or anyone for that matter), and on the rare occasion when an opponent missed a shot,we had no idea to actually possess the basketball afterwards. Our chemistry was awful, our team was fragmented, and our team became such a dysfunctional relationship that divorce was the only option.We were top heavy in talent, and it was only able to cover up our lack of cohesion and depth for so long.
It’s obvious just how different this team is. Our point guard position is arguably our weakest position at times, evidenced by the fact that Devin Harris seems completely unable to secure the starting spotthat was handed to him on a silver platter. We are dominating teams inside on the offensive end, and while our dribble-penetration and help defense looks awful out there at times, the much-maligned AlJefferson and the “undersized” Paul Millsap are simply not letting the other teams bigs have their way anymore. We have so much depth right now that I am not even sure what we would do with another few high lottery picks, which was basically my goal when the season started. While a few problems arestill the same, such as our poor free throw shooting and high propensity to foul, many of the strengths and weaknesses of this team have completely flip-flopped.
What doesn’t seem as obvious is what is so different about the run we are on now than last years. For one thing, admittedly, the competition is easier. Playing Cleveland and Milwaukee at home is not the same thing as playing Miami and Orlando on the road, obviously. What is so impressive to me is that the Jazz are simply finding a way to stay in every game all the time. We are not letting our opponents goon huge runs like we did last year. Since the Spurs game, in which we were blown out in embarrassing
fashion for the third time in four games, the Jazz have not out of a game. Even the game they lost to the Lakers was a game in which no team was ahead by more than 6 points. 48 minutes of basketball in which neither team was able to pull away whatsoever is just so fundamentally different to the type of games the Jazz played last year.
I’m not saying the Jazz are going to win the Championship this year, and I anticipate some growing pain swill come up in the near future. What I am saying is the Jazz are playing a type of winning basketball that is sustainable, a foundation that can be built off of going forward. I don’t see us finishing second in the west this year, but this is not fake and hollow success.
A few other thoughts…
I am a believer in Paul Millsap. I came into season in the camp of people who thought Millsap was simply too small to be a starting Power Forward in this league, that he was a great player offensively but would always be a defensive liability against the leagues other dominant big men. I was so wrong. Millsap transcends conventional wisdom. He is like Tim Tebow, but with talent. I would argue that with the depth we have now, any given player on any given night can be out and we would hardly miss a beat, with the exception of Paul. He is the heart and soul of this team in every way, and he just keeps getting better. His modest 20 points tonight came on7/11 shooting and 6/6 from the free throw line, as efficient a game as you could ever ask from someone. He is our superstar, and we must never talk about trading him again. If there was evera player in this modern Jazz era that needed to retire as a Jazz man, it is Paul Millsap.
I am having a harder and harder time believing in Devin Harris as a point guard. I know we have been spoiled around here, and averaging 10 assists almost seems like the minimum a player should have to do to even call themselves a point guard in Utah. I am really trying to look pass the high expectations from this position we have been used to and give him a chance, but I have been thoroughly unimpressed. I read a few other people tonight who said Harris had a good game, but I’m highly suspicious that was simply based off of his better than normal shooting. He looks completely unable to manage the offense to me, his ball handling leaves so much to be desired, and he seems to be turning the ball over a lot. I would really love to see someone do a statistical comparison between our primary point guards, because as far the eye-test goes, Earl Watson is better by a mile.
There is still a lot of work to do on our dribble penetration defense. There were a few play stonight, especially in the third quarter, that were just awful. For all of the awesome defense our bigs are doing on the other teams bigs in man-to-man coverage, the help defense is still breaking down terribly way too often. However, I’m trying to keep perspective here, and realize that the Jazz have only played 13 regular season games after completely turning their defensive system on its head. The kind of defensive breakdowns I saw tonight were not the result of anyone player’s poor defensive effort or skill, but communication and system issues. I have faith inTy Corbin at this point to get those worked out as the season goes on.I may sound blasphemous to some, but I think we really over rated Jeremy Evans dunk earlier in the season, the one that was (incorrectly) waived off as offensive foul. He had 4 awesome ones tonight. All Jeremy Evans dunks are awesome though, he is incapable of doing anything andnot making it awesome. However, the fourth and final alley-oop from Earl Watson tonight wassimply the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. If he is denied from the dunk contest this year,baby unicorns will cry.
Courtest of @prodigyJF
I am grateful for the opportunity I had tonight to experience this game. I am grateful for the opportunityI have had to experience this team, especially over the last week or so. No matter what happens, evenwhen the world ends in December, these moments of my life cannot be taken away from me. As weendlessly obsess about “RINGZZZ” and legacies and brands and Collective Bargaining Agreements andCompetitive Balance and all that stuff, it’s nice to enjoy sports every now and then.
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